West Side Story

June 23, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Attendance records in Grand Teton National Park this year have been falling by the wayside (every month but February when persistent snowfall made travel difficult). Recreational visits, camping, backcountry camping, trail use....it's all increased dramatically. Looking for a place to pitch your tent? Good luck.

Perhaps you'd prefer sleeping in a room in Jackson to the great outdoors. Prepare to be shocked when you see the rates.

Likewise, Yellowstone has been swamped (and the lodging situation is the same - or worse). Raindance Teton Peaks from Alta WyomingRaindanceChangeable skies over the Teton peaks

Alta, Wyoming

To give you some idea what that means in real numbers, in May Yellowstone welcomed 483,100 people, while 363,700 came to Grand Teton. Neither park was open until late May 2020 due to the pandemic, but compared to 2019 stats, that's an 11% May-to-May increase for YNP and 30% for GTNP.

Not just record-breaking: more like record shattering. (By the way this isn't exclusive to 2021. Grand Teton NP broke all-time records late in 2020, too.)

Since July and August are historically the busiest times of the year, I can only imagine what's coming.

Even in a "normal" year the summer months in Yellowstone are too crowded for my taste; I generally stick with the Tetons.

In Grand Teton NP crowds can be avoided if you head out as the day breaks and steer clear of places like Jenny Lake during peak hours. Evenings are generally good, too; most folks start to disappear by dinnertime. There are also lesser-known areas both within the park and just outside its boundaries which see far fewer visitors. That syncs up just fine in terms of landscape photography.

That said, depending on the time of day, trying to head south into Jackson from the park in the summer might have you feeling more like you're stuck on Chicago's Kennedy Expressway at rush hour rather than traveling on a state highway in sparsely-populated Wyoming. You'll get into town eventually but don't expect a quick trip.

Record tourism to northwest Wyoming is just another reason to love the Teton Valley. It's not referred to as "The Quiet Side" for nothing! Some visitors do head over the pass, but most stick with the national parks.

Fine with me. 

The west side has its own beautiful views of the Tetons, though with a different perspective due to the foothills. The Teton Valley is agricultural: a striking juxtaposition of farmland framed by mountain peaks.

There's a ski resort on the western slope. During the summer months Grand Targhee's lift is open for hikers, mountain bikers, and sightseers. Down below you'll find the Teton River and lots of great hiking in Teton Canyon. 

If that's not enough, the Idaho side boasts another mountain range: the Big Holes. They're not as tall or flamboyant as the Tetons - but still lovely. 

If you want to take a break from the scenery, there are some good places to eat (like Three Peaks or Tetanka Tavern or Warbirds - all in Driggs) as well as two craft breweries and an award-winning distillery that specializes in potato vodka and whiskey.  

If you want something with even more local flavor, you might try Dave's Pubb in Tetonia. It's a favorite of one of my brothers.....also named Dave. :)

At any rate, you won't go hungry. Or thirsty.

Just between you and me, the Teton Valley is pretty nice.

Shhhhh. Let's keep it our little secret. 

Teton Valley IdahoMy Own Private IdahoThe view from the Big Hole Mountains across Idaho's Teton Valley to the Teton Range is expansive and beautiful. Many tourists never see it, but the valley more than lives up to its tagline: "The Best of Both States"

Tetonia, Idaho



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